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Usually, your characters need to wear clothes. If your show is set in modern times (and sometimes if it isn't), you'll dress the characters in appropriate clothes for the time. After all, it would look weird if a modern character wore last decade's styles, right?

Unfortunately, fashion is highly context-sensitive. There are only a few fashions that have stood the test of time (like tuxedos, T-shirts and jeans [though they were strictly the purview of menial labors prior to The Fifties], and The Little Black Dress), and odds are, yours didn't If a character from a show that supposedly takes place in the 21st century has Eighties Hair, he's going to look weird... almost as if he's from the eighties.[1]

In other words, fashions that don't just tell you what year the show was made, they scream it loudly enough to deafen your eyes.

Since most costumers aren't psychic, this happens a lot when old shows are rerun. It can also cause Fridge Logic if the show is set in the future. "Wait... why do people in the year 2800 wear clothes from the '70s?" Fashion Dissonance isn't completely restricted to shows set in the future, though - in fact, it can also be obvious if they're set in the time they were made, or even if they're set in the past (see Gorgeous Period Dress for one example of this, but a more specific example is the question of why no one in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni has Eighties Hair).

Frequently appears in an Unintentional Period Piece.

Compare Outdated Outfit, X Called. They Want Their Y Back., I Was Quite a Fashion Victim, No New Fashions in the Future, Hollywood Costuming. For those who are immune to fashion dissonance, see Awesome Anachronistic Apparel.


There are many eras with regrettable fashion trends. Here are a few:

The 1960s

The Sixties are justly famous for mini-skirts, tie-die and pyschedelic colors. Hair was big and eye-make-up laid on with a trowel. Shows associated with Sixties fashion:

  • Star Trek the Original Series -- the original series: Justly famous for its mini-skirt and go-go boots uniforms, and William Ware Theiss' famously titillating costumes. And for the ladies, James T. Kirk's tearaway shirts.
  • UFO: Set in the eighties but made in the Sixties featuring regrettable Nehru suits and, on the plus side, delightful peek-a-boo uniforms for both sexes.

The 1970s

The Seventies were polyester heavy. Hair was worn thick and often frizzy; men wore bushy mustaches and beards. Trousers were flared, and there was too much corduroy. Sixties features like beads were still hanging on. And eyeshadow was bright blue, regardless of the wearer's skin tone. Here are some of the examples of shows associated with Seventies fashion:

Anime and Manga

  • Pick up any anime or manga from The Seventies, especially if it's Shojo, and you'll see bell-bottom pants everywhere.

Comic Books

  • Legion of Super-Heroes had a number of different eras, but Phantom Girl's bell bottoms and Tyroc's afro stand out.

Live-Action TV

Film

  • Many of the very chic fashions in Annie Hall look dated and silly by today's standards, notably, Tony Roberts's perm and white leisure suit. Ironically, Hollywood Nerd Alvie's rather dowdy wardrobe seems inoffensive by comparison.
  • The James Bond movies with Roger Moore.

Western Animation

The 1980s

The Eighties were almost as silly as the Seventies, but are looked back at with marginally more fondness (mainly because many of the looks from the era fetishized the Cool aesthetic). Note, in particular, Eighties Hair.

Here are some series strongly associated with Eighties Fashion:

Anime and Manga

  • Ah! My Goddess is a particularly weird example. Since the series has been ongoing for more than 20 years but only a few years have passed in the story itself, it seems like fashion progresses from its 80s starting point to the present at a tremendous pace. There's also been a couple of art shifts and Keiichi gave up smoking without it ever being mentioned, possibly showing the changing attitudes about smoking over the past couple of decades.
  • Yu Yu Hakusho. Just look at what the girls are wearing. It's so frighteningly eighties.

Live-Action TV

Music

  • A deliberate aversion was done by New Wave band The Human League, with the cover for their breakout 1981 album Dare!. The cover was intended to resemble that of Vogue magazine, and featured photos of the band members' faces - with their hair styles cropped from the picture. In the words of backing vocalist Susan Ann Sulley, "we wanted people to still be able to buy the album in five years, we thought that hair styles would be the first thing to date. We had no idea people would still be buying it 25 years later."

Western Animation

The 1990s

Nineties Fashion:

Live Action TV

And finally, peculiar examples...

Live-Action TV

Web Comics

  • In Penny and Aggie, the former of the titular characters is normally fashionable-to-a-fault. So when Penny shows up at the airport to greet her friend wearing a top that looks like the shape of a "Y", fans raised eyebrows. The writer, T. Campbell, assured them that there was a reason for it. It turned out to be Foreshadowing: She was intentionally dressing a bit more like Aggie in order to signal her interest.

Notes

  1. Funnily enough, some types of Eighties Hair did actually come back in style in the first decade of the 21st century, though probably not in the way eighties sci-fi predicted.
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